“I train so I can eat.”
This is something I often hear when people state their reasons for training. Everyone’s entitled to have their reasons but I don’t like this one. It’s a doomed thought process that easily leads into train more, eat less-, or train more, eat more – mentality.
Neither of these are sustainable for long term process and can turn into a twisted relationship with food. Something that is all too common with fitness enthusiast but maybe even more so with trainers. I am the first to admit that I used to think the same way at one point.
But just because you ate a donut doesn’t mean that you need to exercise. Because you just did a training sessions doesn’t mean that it’s the only time you are allowed to eat, or even indulge. You are not punishing your body when you train. You are not rewarding yourself with a treat after a hard training session. That’s a tactic people doing behaviour training with dog use. And since you are gifted with the ability to stand and move forward in life on your two feet you do not fit into the description of a canine.
We need to look at eating and training as a two completely separate actions that both try to achieve a specific goal. The goals just happen to go hand in hand.
Why do we eat? Why do we exercise?
At the very basic level, eating is something you do to stay alive. To digest a great amount of nutrients to improve your health. Or to improve body composition, if that’s your goal. The end goal for diet changes should be how to make eating something that enhances the quality of life. Both through nutritionally but also socially. Breaking bread with friends. Sharing a muffin with enemies to turn them into a friend (or to defeat them, by poisoning the muffin… yes, that sounds reasonable).
By matching the quality of the food to your training goal you multiply the odds of hitting your goal. Sure, if your goal is to get stronger and you measure it by getting to a chin up, you need the program to get better at chin ups. But you need to eat to support your goal.
I might be preaching to the converted here, but training is what you do to build lean muscle and strength. Flipping the coin, if you are trying to lose fat and restricting calories, you focus on training to maintain as much lean muscle as possible. Weight loss without training leads into fat loss but you’ll lose a lot of muscle as a by product. As the lean muscle drops your metabolism slows down making it harder to keep the fat from coming back. And as a certain reality television figure, who might or might not be the president, would put it, that’s very bad. very very bad.
Even if your goal is fat loss, the training part shouldn’t only be seen as something you do because it burns calories and fat. I go a step further to say that it shouldn’t’ be tied to burning calories and fat, at all. Not because of science, but because of the negative mental screwdriver it forms.
Training and diet have to work together to achieve a sustainable fat loss. It’s like an elegant dance. I believe that things marketed as “fat loss workouts” are just part of good marketing. If you do a high intensity workout it should be because you want to improve your conditioning and cardiovascular health. If you do a strength workout it should be because you want to, wait for it… to be stronger. And, to build or maintain lean muscle mass to keep that metabolism flame burning bright.
In the end though, I can say a lot of things about what I think people should and shouldn’t do with their health and fitness. And the reason I have strong opinions on fitness is because I want folks to do it with a sustainable mindset. I want everyone to think it’s something they do for the long haul, even learn to enjoy it. I want the reasons for training to be sustainable and safe.
I’ll leave you with this: If a better body composition is your goal, dial in your nutrition, make sure it supports your goal. Then add training for the purpose of getting stronger and building lean muscle.